My year at the Studio by Nijta
Projects 5 minutes

My year at the Studio by Nijta

Immerse yourself in the story of a year of entrepreneurial exploration in ISS program, through alumni testimonies. Whether they created an innovative business at the end or not, everyone experienced an engaged, enriching and personal year. Listen to them and discover through the videos and interviews, their challenges, highlights and major learnings; without forgetting the power of the meetings that make the history of startups.

NIJTA: the startup that protects voice data

Inria Startup Studio | Logo Nijta

Brij Srivastava is the co-founder and CEO of Nijta, a startup that aims to create reliable and ethical AI for contact centers by anonymizing voices.

Inria Startup Studio allowed me to meet the French ecosystem

Attracting foreign talent is a challenge common to the research and entrepreneurship sectors in France. In this sense, Inria Startup Studio is an asset, as evidenced by Brij Mohan Lal Srivastava, Indian founder of the company Nijta, specializing in the protection of voice data. He benefited from the support of ISS to take the plunge into entrepreneurship and create his structure. Explanations.

On the one hand, the predominance of voice in modern telecommunications, reinforced by the use of voice messages and other voice commands used to interact with an increasing number of intelligent devices. On the other hand, the progress made in voice recognition, which now makes it possible, through the use of algorithms, to identify the emotional state of a person, but also in certain cases their location, or even possible pathologies. In the middle, we find the startup Nijta, a word which means intimacy in Hindi. Its goal ? Protect voice data through voice anonymization. A technology that is of interest to more and more players, required to protect the personal data and privacy of their customers, users or collaborators within the framework of the GDPR.

The solution proposed by Nijta is based on the work of Brij Mohan Lal Srivastava, an Indian researcher who arrived in France in 2018 as part of his PhD.

I participated in the European COMPRISE project, as part of a collaboration between the University of Lille and Inria centers in Lille and Nancy. At the end of my PhD in 2021, Emmanuel Vincent, my research director in Nancy, encouraged me to join Inria Startup Studio in order to develop a concrete product based on the results of my work” explains the young researcher, who found within ISS the necessary resources to take on the role of entrepreneur.

Learn to pitch your project

Nijta Brij Srivastava à la fête des startups
Pitch of Nijta by Brij Srivastava to the Fête des Startups 2023
© Inria / Marie Magnin

“At the time, I was still far from thinking about potential customers, or even seriously defining my market. I was still focused on perfecting the technology on which Nijta is based, in collaboration with the French ecosystem, but also Japanese and German academics, proof that my work meets international needs,” says Brij Srivastava. From October 2021 to September 2022, the support of ISS allowed him to understand what a startup really is, or rather the role of a CEO: “I had already worked in the past in several structures of this type, but always as an engineer, and not as a manager. I realize that I had always wanted to develop concrete businesses from my projects and ideas, but until now I had not found the idea likely to lead to a concrete business. Inria Startup Studio helped me give shape to the project, by developing an MVP, a functional prototype allowing me to test the market, and to identify clients for whom your solution is a must have, and who are ready to sign as soon as possible. Come ensuring revenue and visibility in the short term, then come the other players, with whom the sales cycle is longer, and on whom we must focus secondly. Thus, Inria Startup Studio allowed me to meet the French ecosystem, to raise funds and manage the company’s cash flow and intellectual property, and to negotiate with the various stakeholders, particularly customers and prospects.”

By his admission, Brij Srivastava, who has since surrounded himself with Nathalie Vauquier, Seyed Ahmad Hosseini and Emmanuel Vincent, discovered a passion for sales.

“Previously, I was focused on developing my product and how to market it. But now, thanks to the help of my technical and marketing managers, I can focus on closing deals, monitoring the sales cycle and managing our CRM.” Learning to pitch your solution in a few minutes was one of the significant developments enabled by the support of the Startup Studio according to the CEO of Nijta: “This program helps you gain self-confidence and defend and share your vision. This is something that I particularly appreciated in the board meetings organized every two weeks at Inria Startup Studio. This involves taking stock of the progress of the project, product development, and even recruitment. This helps to structure your prospecting, or to develop new useful contacts. Finally, it is above all a question of adopting a new mindset: being careful to the needs of your prospects is not innate for a researcher. We tend towards introspection in order to reflect on the progress of our work. As an entrepreneur, it’s the opposite. You have to meet people to find opportunities and adapt your approach to the needs of the market.”

Brij Srivastava conducted no less than 70 interviews during the year of support for Startup Studio, allowing him to explore his market. It was notably during a hackathon organized by Inria that he met representatives of the different sectors potentially interested in his voice anonymization solution, starting with call center professionals, who would be his first clients. “It is also thanks to Startup Studio that I met the lawyers and accountants who allowed me to structure Nijta, without forgetting the players in the ecosystem who helped me obtain my FrenchTech visa, or even to join the EuraTechnologies incubator. Moreover, we are still on the same campus as when we were at the Startup Studio, which allows us to still regularly meet its members and the other supported entrepreneurs, with whom we still exchange a lot.

Clément FAGES

Check out Brij’s video now!

Publication date: 05/01/2024

Tags: Founder Researcher Startup

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